Damien – Will We Love Him? Hate Him? Or Love to Hate Him?

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Last year I saw reports that Lifetime had a new horror series entitled Damien, based on the classic 1976 film The Omen, starring Lee Remick and Gregory Peck (with Patrick Troughton from Doctor Who as the impaled priest, because you know, all roads lead back…). But when the series failed to materialize in early 2015, as reported, I didn’t know if I should be upset or relieved.

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An intense Patrick Troughton as Father Brennan in “The Omen” (1976).

Omen II (1978) starring William Holden, Lee Grant and Robert Foxworth, saw Damien reluctantly (though not too reluctant) accept the mantle of Antichrist, and Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981), starring a then lesser-known Sam Neill, saw Damien’s rise to power.

The new series Damien, which somehow landed on A&E, would seem to fit in the timeline between the second and third films, whilst ignoring the remake (starring Liev Schreiber and Julia Styles) entirely. From what I understand, Damien draws heavily from the original 1976 film (not sure where this leaves the 1978 film Omen II) and follows an adult Damien Thorn (as a photojournalist, not a politician) apparently unaware of his destiny, definitely setting the stage for some great drama and suspense.

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Harvey Stephens as young Damien Thorn in “The Omen” (1976).

Given the popularity of Bates Motel, it seems fitting that A&E, instead of Lifetime, has picked up the series. Created by Walking Dead producer Glen Mazzara, one hopes for something that honors the original film’s chilling tone. Certainly Mazzara is no stranger to pushing the horror envelope.

I feared Lifetime would err on the side of “camping things up”, ala The Witches of East End (which is a guilty pleasure I admit to, in the vein of Charmed, so no angry letters, please). But for Damien, I want something else. I want to see his journey – his evolution. If there’s anything human in him, I want to see how deeply conflicted he is as he is tempted toward the dark side – “Yes, Damien, he is your father.”

This will require an actor with skill, someone who can be likable and charismatic, as well as haunted and dark. Enter fan favorite Bradley James (Merlin, iZombie). An IMDB search to see what James had been up to led me to this little tidbit, and I was immediately intrigued, and dare I say it, excited.

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Bradley James as Prince Arthur Pendragon in the BBC Series “Merlin”.

With his leading man good looks, James was cast as the heroic young Arthur Pendragon in Merlin (2008-2012), and more recently, as the funny, charming and lovable musician Lowell Tracey in iZombie (he quickly endeared himself to audiences as Liv’s ill-fated zombie lover – a sentence I thought I’d never write, and will probably never write again).

To keep audiences hooked he’ll have to walk a fine line between sympathetic/tortured and downright evil, as we know what Damien is destined to become. We know Norman Bates’ fate and the fates of those around him in Bates Motel, given the source material Psycho, still we find sympathy for Norman as he battles against a severe mental illness and hallucinations that compel him to kill.

Unlike Norman, whom we meet as a teen under the thumb of his controlling (still alive), neurotic (possibly borderline personality) mother Norma, Damien (as portrayed by Bradley James) is a grown man. He may not be so easily manipulated and he will likely be aware of his actions.

The Many Faces of Norman Bates

Norman Bates as portrayed by Freddie Highmore in the A&E series “Bates Motel” and Anthony Perkins in the 1960 film “Psycho”.

As we saw briefly in Omen II, Damien initially has reservations about his future as Prince of the Underworld and overlord to humanity, but he turns too quickly for my taste, killing his cousin and best friend Mark, when Mark rejects him upon learning the truth. This is where he seems to turn towards the Dark Side, never to return. However, in Omen III the tables are turned, and it is his humanity and feelings for a woman that becomes his undoing. (Sorry for the spoilers, folks, but the films have been out for over 30 years). Again, this felt forced. I wanted to see a more remorseful, conflicted Damien. Perhaps now I’ll get my wish.

Let’s face it, we love our reformed bad boys, don’t we? Complex, brooding, bad, but with a softer side. We certainly love our tortured supernatural beings – starting with the first repentant vampire Barnabas Collins (Dark Shadows), inspiring characters like Nick Knight (Forever Knight), Angel (Angel), Methos (Highlander), and more recently, Damon Salvatore (Vampire Diaries) and Klaus Mikaelson (The Originals).

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Bradley James as Damien v. 5.0 (If you count all the films).

It will be interesting to see Damien’s development over time, and if like Klaus in The Originals, if he will walk that tightrope between villain and sympathetic anti-hero; someone who loves deeply, and is fiercely protective and loyal, only to doom those closest to him, due to his nature and the beast within (in Klaus’ case, his vampiric/hybrid nature, in Damien’s, his demonic birthright). Is Damien damned? Does he have a choice? Or was his fate sealed before he was even born?

I’m intrigued, not to mention, more than mildly interested in seeing more of the devilishly handsome (see what I did there?) Bradley James (hopefully in various states of undress… but I digress, as I often do…) and definitely looking forward to seeing him as Damien Thorn.

Damien airs Monday, March 7th, 2016 at 10pm EST on A&E after the season premiere of Bates Motel.

For more, check out this trailer for Damien.

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Celebrity Sci-Fi Hotties Take The ALS Challenge!

Social media is buzzing with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The goal is to raise awareness and money for research into Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). ALS is a devastating illness, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. There is no cure for the disease. Truthfully, I knew very little about it myself, that is until I heard about this campaign.

FAN FAVORITES TAKE THE PLUNGE

Thanks to celebrities like Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Robert Downey Jr. (The Avengers), subjecting themselves to buckets of ice water poured over their heads, news is spreading like wildfire, and donations are literally pouring in.

Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Serenity, Castle) then went on to challenge Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers, Thor). Stephen Amell (Arrow) challenged co-star John Barrowan (Arrow, Torchwood, Doctor Who), to take the plunge (insert evil laughter here).

It’s brilliant to watch some of my favorites take up the cause. Not to mention, it’s a great opportunity to see them in wet t-shirts… but I digress…

TAG! YOU’RE IT! 

Then Hiddleston went on to challenge Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Star Trek Into Darkness), Helena Bonham Carter (Harry Potter, Dark Shadows) and Luke Evans (The Hobbit).

Next up, Barrowman challenged co-star Colton Haynes (Arrow, Teen Wolf), Misha Collins (Castiel in Supernatural) and David Tennant (The 10th Doctor – Doctor Who). I knew that was coming! I can’t wait to see Tennant’s reaction.

This is getting interesting…

RECOMMENDED LINKS

So far, the campaign has raised more than $15.6 million to raise awareness about this disease and it is building even more momentum – exactly as it was designed to do.

To learn more about ALS and The Ice Bucket Challenge  please visit The ALS Association Website. 

To follow the campaign on social media type in the hashtag #icebucketchallenge.

Hunky Highlanders, Time Travellers & Fair Ladies, Oh My!

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Ron Moore (Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica) is back again, this time as the Executive Producer for the Starz Original Series Outlander, starring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan.

WHAT IT IS 

Outlander (not be confused with the 2008 movie of the same name) is based on the series of (currently 8) novels by Diana Gabaldon. Outlander follows the adventures of Claire Randall (Balfe), a World War II combat nurse. While on a trip to Scotland (near Inverness) with her husband Frank (an academic, played by Tobias Menzies), with whom she has only just been reunited after a 5 year absence, Claire manages to fall through time, 200 hundred years into the past. Right place, wrong timezone. That’ll teach her to roam about an ancient mystical site (stone circle and everything), where only hours before a Samhain ritual had been performed.

Sadly for Claire, she ends up smack dab in the middle of the conflict between the British Redcoats and the Scots in 1743 (one of many leading up to the famous and bloody Battle of Culloden in 1746).

Lost and confused, Claire dodges musket fire and an attempted rape at the hands of Captain Black Jack Randall, a British soldier and nasty piece of work, who happens to look a good deal like someone from Claire’s past (or is it future?) life… hmmm… (having a Dark Shadows flashback, but I digress).

KILTS and BODICE RIPPERS

Twice injured and twice saved by Claire, Jamie Fraser (Heughan), a Scottish rebel, is more than just a little grateful. Luckily in helping Jamie, Claire proves herself useful to his clan, saving her own skin in the process. She can use all the allies she can get in this wilderness. Claire is a rational person, but she knows she’s not in 1945 anymore.

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Sparks fly from the word go between Claire and Jamie (for some reason the words bodice-ripping come to mind whenever he’s on screen) and one can only hope for some steamy scenes involving the pair (hopefully sooner rather than later, please…).

IMPRESSIONS

I found the pace of the first half of the opening episode a bit sluggish. Thankfully, things pick right up once we’re in 1743. Though I found Claire’s voiceover as a plot device, a bit overused, and even jarring at times, I can forgive it. Hopefully, as the series progresses, there’ll be less of a need to telegraph her thoughts in this manner. I did enjoy the references to Celtic magic and pagan rituals, and hope we’ll be seeing more of that as time goes on.

Outlander has all the makings of a successful drama – romance, conflict, beautiful locations, and a strong heroine in Claire. She’s a woman ahead of her time – in both worlds. Even by today’s standards, Claire is intelligent, skilled, passionate, tough, and outspoken. A formidable woman indeed.

From what I’ve heard, fans of the books can rest easy, as the television adaptation (thus far) seems rather faithful.

For more on the Outlander series of books, visit Diana Gabaldon’s site.

For a look at the TV series, check out the official Starz trailer below.

Outlander airs Saturdays at 9pm on Starz.